Pa. solar industry still waiting for fix
July 25, 2012By Carolyn Beeler
This week, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed a law meant to reinvigorate the solar industry in the Garden State by requiring utilities to buy more solar energy.
At the same time, though, hope is fading that a similar fix will help Pennsylvania's solar industry anytime soon.
Prices for renewable energy credits tanked in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey when the market was flooded with too many new solar arrays.
The problem hit Pennsylvania much worse, and nearly destroyed demand for new installations.
But legislation similar to New Jersey's new law is stalled in committee.
"There's only eight legislative days left," said solar lobbyist Maureen Mulligan. “So it's not looking promising that the legislators would have the will to push it through."
Advanced Solar Products CEO Lyle Rawlings hopes Christie's approval eventually nudges Pennsylvania lawmakers.
"I would hope the fact that a conservative Republican governor in New Jersey recognized the economic importance of the solar industry in New Jersey would be a clue to the Pennsylvania governor and Legislature that the same can happen, and should happen, in Pennsylvania,” Rawlings said.
Many solar companies have already pulled out of Pennsylvania and moved employees to New Jersey.
Gaurav Naik, co-owner of Heat Shed, said his is one of the few solar companies left with operations in Pennsylvania.
Now that the market in New Jersey is propped up by increased demand from utilities, at least temporarily, he is joining the crowd looking East.
By the end of the summer, he said he is likely to close down his Quakertown office and relocate the seven employees there.
“We're going to give them two choices,” Naik said. “We’re either going to allow them to work out of their houses or basically give them the option to relocate to the New Jersey office.”
Had New Jersey not passed the legislation, he said he probably would be laying off those workers instead.